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Understanding The 5 Dota Positions, Who Plays Them and Why

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So, you’ve started following Dota a bit more after our coverage of the recently concluded TI6. Well, good for you, and if you plan to pursue a career as a pro player, good luck. As a new spectator, though, one of the first things you’re bound to notice on team rosters is that the players are listed with a number from 1 to 5 next to their names.

So, you wonder, what do these numbers mean?

As a simple explanation, Dota utilizes a numerical system that signifies a player’s position. The numbers are chosen based on farm priority, with 1 and/or 2 requiring the most farm, and 4 or 5 requiring the least. There’s much more to the numbers than just farm priority, though.

Below is a breakdown of the five different Dota player positions, as well as notable professional players to learn more from about how each role works.

The Hard Carry

Notable professional players:

Chu “Shadow” Zeyu (TI6 Champion, Wings Gaming)
Clinton “Fear” Loomis (TI5 Champion, Formerly Evil Geniuses)
Artour “Arteezy” Babaev (Team Secret)

The hard carry has one job – it’s to farm as much and as quickly as possible. To help, teams often devote one support player to the hard carry throughout much of the early game. Sometimes, two support players help the hard carry in what’s known as a Trilane setup. This doesn’t happen often, and mostly only on patches that favor a 4-protect-1 strategy, where everybody sacrifices their farm for the sake of the hard carry.

Because their main priority from early to mid-game is to farm and participate in fights only when necessary, hard carries are played in the safe lane. This is the top lane for Dire and the bottom lane for Radiant. Although there are cases where hard carries are played in the mid lane, but it doesn’t happen often.

Common hard carry heroes are Juggernaut, Slark, Drow Ranger and others that are exceptionally powerful when they have a significant item and farm advantage against the opposing team’s heroes. Also, since hard carry heroes are relatively weak early game, it’s imperative for hard carries to know how to read the map well enough to avoid untimely ganks and when to farm.

Solo Mid

Notable professional players:

Amer “Miracle-“ Barqawi (First 9K MMR Player, Former OG 1/2 Position Player)
Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan (TI5 Champion, Evil Geniuses)
Danil “Dendi” Ishutin (TI1 Champion, Natus Vincere)

Solo mid players are second in terms of farm priority. But are, by far, much more renowned compared to hard carries, often thanks to how well they make big plays all game long, regardless of whether they had help from their teammates or not.

Unlike hard carries, solo mid or mid players are much more active and are involved in almost every team fight from the early to the late stages of the game.

NOTE: It’s worth noting that positions 1 and 2 players are sometimes interchangeable, as is the case with OG’s Miracle- and N0tail swapping roles depending on the situation.

Offlaners

Notable professional players:

Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora (TI5 Champion, Evil Geniuses)
Henrik “Admiral Bulldog” Ahnberg (TI3 Champion, Alliance)
David “Moo” Hull (Digital Chaos)

The position 3, “Offlaner”, is a bit of a peculiar position, as they’re not exactly carry, nor support heroes, which effectively makes them tweeners. They’re often tasked at matching up against the opposing team’s hard carry at the hard lane, which is the top lane on Radiant, and bottom lane on Dire. Because of the nature of their position, Offlaners choose heroes that can handle a lot of punishment, or has a quick escape mechanism, such as Nature’s Propher, Centaur Warchief, Tidehunter, Timbersaw and Faceless Void, just to name a few.

Farming / Flex Supports

Notable professional players:

Ludwig “Zai” Wåhlberg (Formerly Evil Geniuses)
Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev (Natus Vincere)
Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling (Team NP, TI5 Champion)

Position 4 heroes, or farming supporters, are heroes that possess abilities with low cooldowns and low mana costs that are useful in teamfights and often need a certain degree of farm for levels and items to be effective. Their gameplay is far more active and they have a tendency to roam around the map for picks on the enemy heroes, mainly their hard carries, and have a far more substantial role when it comes to team fights.

If the game somehow manages to hit the 50 or so minute mark, the position 4 can act as a 4th carry, especially if they manage to get some good farm.

Popular heroes include Visage, Dark Seer, Naga Siren, Clockwerk, and Windrunner, just to name a few.

Hard Supports

Notable professional players:

Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi (Team Liquid)
Clement “Puppey” Ivanov (Team Secret, TI1 Champion)
Peter “ppd” Dager (Evil Geniuses, TI5 Champion)

Similar to hard carries, hard supports have a very specific role in the game – to help the team win the game at all costs. This often means being the primary buyer for the team’s courier, dust, smoke, as well as observer and sentry wards, and helping the team’s hard carry by being the “babysitter” in the safe lane during the early stages of the game.

Despite finishing most games with nothing more than boots and a magic wand, this position is important to the team’s success, especially since it’s up to the hard support to save the hard carry and give him enough space to farm.

Typical hard support heroes include Chen, Vengeful Spirit, Io, and Crystal Maidens.

Now that you know what the different numbers and positions mean, watching games should be a whole lot easier for you from now on.

Written by Ray Ian Ampoloquio

A gamer since he could hold a controller with his hands, he swears to have beaten Contra as a kid without using the Konami Code. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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